It is believed that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were located near the southern end of the Dead Sea, but through earthquake activity the sea spread farther south and covered whatever remained of the ancient cities. The area around Sodom was once suitable for raising flocks and herds, and for this reason Lot settled there (Gen 13:10-13). On one occasion when Sodom was invaded by plunderers, Lot was taken captive. But Abraham took some of his guards and workmen, defeated the invaders and recaptured Lot. Abraham acknowledged that God was the one who had given him victory, and he refused to accept any reward from the king of Sodom (Gen 14:1-24). Sodom and Gomorrah were notoriously sinful, and homosexual practices were widespread (Gen 19:4-10).

God determined to destroy the cities, but Abraham asked God to withhold his judgment if ten righteous people could be found. But ten righteous people could not be found and the two cities were destroyed. Lot and his family, however, escaped before the judgment fell (Gen 18:22-33; 19:12-14). Petroleum, bitumen, salt and sulphur were abundant in this area (cf. Gen 14:10), and these became part of the means of judgment. The cities were destroyed probably through the lighting of natural gases by lightning, combined with earthquake disturbance. Nevertheless, the fiery destruction was also the work of God, for its timing and extent were exactly as God had previously announced (Gen 19:24-29). In later generations people likened great moral sin to the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, and likened a devastating judgment to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Deut 29:23; Isa 3:9; 13:19; Jer 23:14; 49:18; Ezek 16:46-56; Zeph 2:9; Matt 10:15; Luke 17:28-29; 2 Peter 2:6; Jude 7). Jesus warned that Jews of his day, who heard his teaching and saw his mighty works yet rejected him, would receive a more severe judgment than people of those wicked Gentile cities who had never heard of him. The people of Jesus’ day had a greater privilege, and this placed upon them a greater responsibility (Matt 11:20-24).

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